Paikea Mist at anchor- beautiful but short-lived Cavtat
It is safe to say that Michael and I have anchored Paikea Mist thousands of times together. Since leaving Vancouver in 2009 to head across the Pacific we have tried to limit our time in marinas, preferring to trust our heavy chain and oversized anchor we call Mr. Spade. We like to think we have a solid approach to anchoring, and once our anchor is set we can usually sleep without a worry in the world.
Not quite the case here in Croatia! As luck would have it, after anchoring off the lovely town of Cavtat following our check in procedure the weather took an unexpected turn. Dark clouds rolled in with bursts of lightning and cracks of thunder. Later a sudden and also unpredicted wind change blew straight into the anchorage, putting all three boats anchored deep into the mooring field. Not good. With supposedly good protection from the NE, the bay was open to the winds now piping in from the W/NW. We never got to see if it was good protection from the NE winds that were predicted. Instead of a celebratory drink and a nice dinner aboard, we were weighing anchor and skidaddling . Just before dusk we found our new home, dug the anchor in and spent the night listening to it grind away. Hmmm.
The next morning, expecting strong NE winds to build overnight we once again raised the anchor to reposition ourselves in the bay, and try to stop that awful grinding. That grinding? Seems we hooked a nice piece of fibreglass boat frame with our trusty Mr. Spade.
We went through our standard anchoring drill again, laying out the required ratio of chain and pulling back to set the anchor. We take this anchoring business seriously; after all we are trying to find both a comfortable and safe home for ourselves and Paikea Mist. If either Michael or I are not completely sure we are stuck we start all over again. Mr. Spade went in and didn't budge. We spent that night with 30-40 knot gusts bustling down the mountainsides challenging our well stuck anchor to a fight and making the night, well, less than sleep worthy. Tired, and feeling overwhelmed by the relentless bora wind, but also knowing we hadn't moved an inch, we decided to stay put. When the wind finally lightened up enough to launch our dinghy we headed out around the point to the next bay to realize that we were sitting in a nice wind funnel. Although the mountains were blocking a direct NE path of wind, the swooping valley was perfectly redirecting it from the NW. Oops!
Our next anchorage was a beauty, we dropped the hook in perfectly clear water off the heavily wooded island park of Lokum, just off Dubrovnik. With the Old Town of Dubrovnik within easy reach of our dinghy it was a totally fun and exciting way to visit the city. Taking the dinghy in through the old moat was beyond cool. We especially enjoyed our walk along the castle walls with some sections dropping straight to the sea below. Stunning.
Lunch? Just an easy dinghy ride away to whip up a fresh salad and sandwich back on Paikea Mist. The late afternoon included a refreshing dip, some snorkelling with the fish and yup, more fun and games.
We had our fingers crossed that the wind predicted for that night would escape us, we had seen this anchorage in complete calm while our previous one was still being buffeted. But as the wind began to build late in the afternoon it veered to the east and into the bay, making it once again time to be on the move. Would we ever get a break?
Not quite yet.
Around 6 pm we pulled into the totally protected glassy waters of our next anchorage to the shouts from an Aussie boat charter noting our Canadian flag " Arrived in Paradise eh?". Well, so it would seem. We again laid the anchor down in clear waters and tested Mr. Spade for strength. Thumbs up. We should be good. That night the wind changed yet again (seems usual around here for the wind to change direction several times in a day), funnelling straight into the bay, again veering more easterly than predicted. Hmmm... this is getting bloody annoying. Up anchor in the morning and bouncing through a 3 foot chop away we go.
Are you counting? We headed for our fifth anchorage in 3 days. Lovely, calm waters. Anchor sticks. Walk the island. Gorgeous. Sunny....windy. Wind develops into the bay YET again. And so the story goes.
Michael and I are beginning to wonder if we can ever find a place to call home for a stretch here in Croatian waters. We both hit the books, check out anchorages, look at google earth to try to understand further how wind might curve and deflect off mountains and islands. We finally pick the anchorage of Milo Zaton for the prediction of strong NE winds. Amazingly enough, that night the winds do come from the NE and are around the predicted values. Life is good. We stay put for 4 nights while we explore the area by walking, running and rental car. Eventually a strong storm rolls in again, this time from the SE. We stay put, and even with some wind blowing down into the far reaches of the bay we are still comfortable, finally!
Our anchoring procedure:
• Check weather prediction- we use Predict Wind and have found this a very reliable source including the effects of land formations on wind direction and strength (the only time we haven't has been in this area, where the funnelling effect and strength exceeded the predictions).
• Find anchorage with protection from wind direction, referring to as many sources as possible (guidebooks, charts, google earth) This activity increases with increased wind in the forecast
• Arrive at selected bay and do a visual survey of the opportunities to drop the hook, depending on other boats anchored, mooring buoys and other obstructions such as ferry paths . In areas with big mountains and valleys we try to re-examine how we think the predicted wind will be affected by topography. By doing this we often find areas where there is little or no wind, such as anchoring off the tip of a cape, or hunkering in close to a steep shore with lines ashore.
• Once we decide on exactly where to anchor, Gloria goes to bow, looking for sandy area to lay down the anchor and directs Michael with hand signals and voice to the sandy patch.
• Anchor goes down, laying out chain in slow reverse
• Once appropriate amount of anchor chain is laid out, Michael puts boat into reverse and increases the revs to 1800 rpm. If we both know the anchor is stuck we put the bridle on. If either of us is unsure, up comes the anchor and chain to try again. We would rather humiliate ourselves in front of multiple boats than ride out a big wind on an anchor neither of us trusts is really in there for good.
• Once anchored, Michael often does a fly by in the dinghy with depth alarm to ensure there are no unmarked obstacles.
• In windy conditions (18 knots plus): If after we are anchored Michael thinks there is a part of the bay that is even better than where we have chosen, he will take our dinghy on recognisance and make a decision whether it is worth it to move. This often results in turning a suitable anchorage into a comfortable and sleep worthy one!
We hope that our anchoring woes are over for the time being, although we have two more storms in the forecast, a big SE blow followed by another nor'easter. Will let you know how she goes.
Note to cruisers entering Croatia: We flew our Q flag into Cavtat, where a friendly man with an official name tag whistled us to come alongside the cement wall and the cordoned off quarantine area and throw him our lines. Our check-in was painless other than paying our 260 Cdn cruising fees for three months. Returning to the boat, the guy at the Q dock collected a further 100 kn (20 Cdn) for use of the Q dock! That is the first time in 19 countries that we have ever been charged to tie up to the Q dock. We have been warned that cruising in Croatia is very expensive, with fees even being collected to anchor. Over the past year, Croatia has reduced it's cruising fees substantially and we have also been informed that areas commissioned with mooring buoys can no longer charge for anchoring off them, a practice which has incensed many cruisers in the past. Our biggest concern is being forced to anchor in deep waters in bays where commissioned mooring buoys have taken up all the suitable space. We have zero intention of taking a mooring buoy which could be both poorly serviced and too close to others for safety. We will keep you posted as to what we find.